How & Where to Buy Cheap Domain Names?
When launching a website, it’s only natural that you’ll try to find the best deals on hosting, design, and even domain names. Cutting corners to fit into a budget is something that many businesses and individuals are all too familiar with, especially when launching a new project.
Because finding the best deals is not easy and indiscriminately cutting corners can backfire, we’re here to guide you through the process of choosing a reliable domain registrar and help you identify your best options when looking for a cheap domain.
A domain name is a word or sequence of characters (letters, numbers, and symbols) that you type into your web browser to access a website. The sequence of characters corresponds to the IP address (Internet Protocol Address) of a domain name that browsers use to communicate with servers.
You could access a website by introducing its IP address into your web browser but remembering strings of numbers is much more difficult than remembering domain names.
A domain name is also unique to a website, meaning that there can’t be two websites with the same domain name. If you will, a domain name is a unique identifier of a website on the web.
Each domain name ends in an extension that follows immediately after the final dot at the end of the domain name, e.g. “.com”, “.org”, “.gov”, etc. These are called top-level domains, while extensions that are a country code (e.g. .it for Italy, .fr for France) are country code top-level domains. Read our comprehensive guide to find out which domain extension you should choose: com, net, org.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the organization coordinating the management of these unique identifiers. ICANN develops policies, and runs an accreditation system for domain registrars.
Domain vs Website vs Hosting
Some people use the terms website and domain name interchangeably, but as we mentioned before, the domain name is the address where your website, i.e. the content that you want to access, is located. Hosting, on the other hand, is the service of storing your website’s content on a web server.
Some web hosts bundle domain registration with their web hosting services, offering a free domain for the first 12-month of your contract. Of course, you can choose to forgo this offer and register your domain at a regular domain registrar.
How Cheap are Cheap Domains?
Almost every domain registrar will advertise their domains as cheap or affordable, but how do you know if you’re getting a good deal if they all promise not to dig too deep in your pocket?
The price of a domain name is made up of the initial registration price that, on average, can range anywhere from $1.99 to $12 for domains on the low end of the spectrum. The registration price is usually lower than the renewal price of your domain, because domain registrars often run promotions and give you coupon codes and what not to register with them.
The price at which you register your domain covers your use of the domain for 1 year, after which if you still want to retain your domain, you’ll have to renew it. The renewal price is usually higher than the initial registration price, ranging from $10 to $20.
So even though a domain may initially cost $0.99, the renewal price could be $15, so you should always factor in the renewal rate when comparing prices across registrars.
But pricing and pricing alone, should not be the only thing to ascertain when buying a domain name. Other aspects such as accreditation, reliability, support, privacy is just as important.
How to Choose a Domain Registrar?
Choosing a domain registrar should not be a decision based on pricing alone. When buying domains make sure the registrar is:
Accredited by ICANN
We’ve already mentioned that ICANN is the authority that accredits domain registrars to make sure they respect all technical, operational and financial criteria laid down for registrar businesses.
Now, many domain registrars may claim they are accredited, but the only way to check for sure is to consult the list of accredited domain registrars that ICANN maintains on their website. If the company is on the list, you can check off this requirement.
While domain registrars are bound by the rights and responsibilities laid down by ICANN in the Registrar Accreditation Agreements, you should still do a background check of the company. In doing so, find out how long they have been in the business, whether there are any bad reviews from current or former customers.
When you register a domain name, the domain registrar is responsible for submitting your data (name, address, phone number, etc.) to a WHOIS database, which is a public directory that maintains information about the registrant of each domain. This can potentially leave you exposed to spammers, direct marketers and other exploitative practices.
Domain registrars offer domain privacy services usually via third-party companies that mask your identity in the WhoIs database by submitting their own data instead of your data, however, in the eyes of ICANN whoever is listed in WhoIs as the registrant of the domain is also the rightful owner of that domain. To avoid legal disputes over the ownership of a domain name, make sure you pick a company with a reputable track record.
Due to regulations in different countries, some top-level domains cannot be masked. E.g. .eu TLds cannot be masked in WhoIs.
You may think that support is not all that important for domain registration, but you may come across scenarios when you may need the help of a specialist, like when setting up nameservers or when transferring domain names. Make sure to read reviews about a domain registrar’s support team and check if they offer 24/7 support on email, chat or phone.
It’s important to stay away from domain registrars with a shady history even if their prices are extremely low. Stay away from companies that are notorious for bad customer support, companies with bad data protection practices, companies that slam you with hidden fees, etc.
Now that you’re up-to-date with the requirements of a good domain registrar, what about the requirements for choosing a domain name?
How to Choose a Domain Name?
So, you think you’ve coined the perfect domain name for your website, but are you sure it’s as good as you think? Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding on a domain name:
Is it Memorable?
Even if you don’t choose a catchy and witty domain name, do make sure that your domain is easy to remember. To this end, avoid having hyphens, hard-to-spell words, or domains that contain numbers. The shorter a domain and the easier to spell and pronounce, the better.
Is it Relevant?
A domain name should be as personalized to your business as possible. If they are keywords that link your business to your brand, be creative and incorporate it into your domain name. The easier for people to link your domain to your brand, the better.
Is it Unique?
Check if your domain is available, and make sure you avoid copyright infringement. Avoid names that create confusion between brands or that use a popular brand name with a different extension. All these tricks can land you in the midst of a copyright infringement trial.
There’s no shame in using a domain name generator if you’re short on ideas for your website. You can feed these name generators with a few keywords and wait for an outpour of suggestions.
Beware of Domain Hijacking
If you have more domain names registered at different or even the same domain registrar, it’s a good idea to turn on automatic renewal for your domains. Some companies have it turned on by default. This way you don’t run the risk of losing a domain name because you forgot to renew it, but you can also protect yourself from domain hijacking practices.
Some companies may try to trick you into transferring your domain to another registrar unbeknownst to you. These companies will usually send you an email disguised as a renewal notice or bill and by clicking on links in this email, you may end up transferring to another registrar and end up paying higher fees for your domain.
If you have automatic renewal enabled in your account, it will be easy to spot these fraudulent emails and avoid unauthorized domain transfers. Even if you don’t enable automatic renewal, you should treat renewal notice emails with suspicion and avoid clicking on any links in these emails. What you should do instead is to log into your account on your domain registrar’s website and check to see if any of your domains need renewing.
Another way to protect yourself from unauthorized changes is to enable domain locking for your domain. You can usually enable/disable this function in your account.
Where to Buy Cheap Domains?
Now that you know about the requirements and pitfalls of buying domain names, we still won’t let you hang out to dry! Here are our top recommendations for domain registrars that are both affordable and reliable:
When it comes to cheap domains, GoDaddy is definitely a good place to start. GoDaddy is the world’s largest domain registrars with several ongoing promotions. You can grab your first .com domain for as low as $0.99.
GoDaddy is an ICANN accredited domain registrar that offers 24/7 support, domain transfer services, private domain registration, bulk domain registrations, certified domain, and many other services including affordable web hosting.
Although they’re a US based company, they have offices across Europe, Asia, India, and more. They serve over 17.5 million customers and have 76+ domain names under their management.
Apart from domain registration and web hosting services, GoDaddy’s web services also include email hosting, online marketing, web security, and web building.
As with any budget host, expect a few upsells at checkout, slightly longer customer support wait times, and a propensity for vendor lock-in.
HostGator is another reputable web hosting service that has been around for the better part of two decades. Along with pocket-friendly and user-oriented web hosting services, they also offer domain registration as a separate service.
Among their domain-related services, you’ll find domain locking to prevent domain hijacking, auto-renewal enabled by default, Domain Privacy Protection to keep your identity private in the WhoIs database, and domain transfer service. If you transfer a domain to HostGator, the company will automatically add 1 year to the time remaining on your existing registration.
HostGator’s customer support is available 24/7 on live chat. Other support channels include phone, email and ticketing system.
The company has made a name for itself as a budget host that caters mostly to the needs of beginners. Their hosting packages cover all hosting categories, offering several freebies with each package.
NameCheap is another popular domain registrar that you can trust. Their prices are some of the lowest in the business. Like HostGator and GoDaddy, NameCheap is also an ICANN accredited domain registrar.
At NameCheap, you can register a domain, transfer a domain, take advantage of PositiveSSL to secure your domain, enjoy WhoIs Guard Privacy Protection, and 24/7 customer support.
You can register a domain for multiple years to take advantage of discounts.
Besides domains, NameCheap also provides hosting services, as well as online marketing and online security services.
Balancing quality and affordability is not always easy, especially in an industry, where everyone promises to offer you the best deal for your buck. Deals that may seem good on the surface, may turn out to be much more taxing than you though, so it’s important to know how and where to buy your domains from.
GoDaddy, HostGator and NameCheap are reliable ICANN accredited registrars that we recommend if you’re looking to register a domain with an eye on the future. The companies listed in this guide all offer 24/7 customer support and a host of other web services including web hosting and online security. Their basic domain registration services are completed by complementary services that make it easier to manage and secure your domain names.
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